Penyagolosa Trails 115km Ultra HG Preview 2017

The other Ultra Trail World Tour (UTWT) race also taking place on April 22 is the Penyagolosa Trails 115k that takes place in Castellon, Spain. The race takes place near the Penyagolosa Massif in Valencia, Spain and includes over 5000 meters of elevation gain. Although the competitive Madeira Island Ultra Trail race is also on the same day, the Penyagolosa Trails 115k has also managed to attract a deep competitive field, and this really goes to demonstrate just how competitive the global ultra trail running scene has become over the past several years.

The competitive female field is led by Francesca Canepa, Gemma Arenas and Azara Garcia, who are likely to make up the final podium positions. Francesca Canepa has performed consistently well over the last few years with plenty of wins and podium finishes in a variety of races across the world. In 2014 she was first at the Vibram 100 and Eiger Ultra Trail 101k, in 2015 she was first at 100 Miles of Istria and second at Eiger Ultra Trail 101k. In 2016 she was first again at 100 Miles of Istria and the Mozart 100k. She has had a strong start to 2017 with yet another win at 100 Miles of Istria, which combined with her years’ of experience makes her a strong contender for the win.

Gemma Arenas is perhaps a name we are not familiar with given that she appears to have raced only in Europe thus far in her running career, however over the past several years she has achieved many great results. In 2015 she was seventh at Ice Trail Tarentaise and fourth at Ultra Pirineu Trail 110k, and in 2016 she was sixth at Transvulcania, fourth at High Trail Vanoise, first at Ultra Pirineu Trail 110k and fifth at the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) World Trail Running Championships in Spain.

Although she appears to be comparatively new to ultra trail running, she has already achieved plenty of solid results and should certainly do very well on Penyagolosa Trails course. Azara Garcia has also plenty of experience racing in Europe with some good results in the last few years, including second at the 2016 IAU World Trail Running Championships in Spain and most recently an incredible first at the 2017 Transgrancanaria.

Other strong female contenders:

  • Janessa Taylor –  1st 2017 Orcas Island 100 Mile, 3rd 2017 Sean O’Brien 100k, 2nd 2016 Bandera 100k
  • Ildiko Wermescher – 5th 2017 Transgrancanaria, 7th 2016 Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB), 4th 2016 Eiger Ultra Trail 101k, 9th 2016 Ultra Trail Australia 100k
  • Maite Maiora – 1st 2016 Skyrunning World Championships, 3rd 2015 Matterhorn Ultraks


Penyagolosa Trails 115k
Penyagolosa Trails 115k

The Penyagolosa male field is led by Didrik Hermansen, Timothy Olson, and Sondre Amdahl, which we think will take the final podium positions, but given the depth of the field anything could happen on race day. Didrik Hermansen has had an amazing few years with consistent results both internationally and closer to home in Europe. This has included second at Transgrancanaria and first at Lavaredo Ultra Trail in 2015, and first at Transgrancanaria and second at Western States Endurance Run in 2016. He’s picked up in 2017 where he left off 2016 with fourth at Vibram 100 and third at Transgrancanaria, suggesting he is in great form and given his racing history it is highly likely that he will win this race barring a major upset.

The next contenders for the podium are fellow countryman, Sondre Amdahl and the ever famous Timothy Olson who seems to be on a comeback of sorts. Tim well knows the pressures of racing and balancing that with a family, so it’s great to see him coming towards his competitive best once again.

Sondre Amdahl got the world’s attention in 2014 where he had a string of consistent performances including sixth at Transgrancanaria and 7th at UTMB, which was followed by a solid 2015 where he was second at Vibram 100, fourth at Transgrancanaria and fourth at Ultra Trail Mt. Fuji (UTMF). In 2016 he did a variety of different races, including a strong ninth at the Marathon Des Sables and although he is unlikely to win this race, he is extremely consistent and likely to finish on the podium. I had the honour of meeting Sondre at the 2014 Vibram 100, an incredibly humble person who likes to prepare meticulously for races by training on the course prior to racing whenever possible.

The American running sensation that is Timothy Olson has a long history of amazing results in America and Europe. He’s had a good start to 2017 with an incredible tenth place at the extremely competitive Transgrancanaria, suggesting that he may well and truly be on his way up the comeback trail. It would be great to see Timothy reach the heights of his earlier successes that included back to back wins (and course record) at Western States Endurance Run in 2012-2013, fourth at UTMB in 2013, plus third at Transgrancanaria and eighth at Transvulcania in 2014. It should be an amazing race and highly likely that the final podium positions will come from the above group of men, but they will certainly have their work cut out for them.

Other strong male contenders:

  • Fulvio Dapit – 4th 2015 Ice Trail Tarentaise, 6th 2016 Madeira Island Ultra Trail, 15th 2016 Transvulcania
  • Yeray Duran Lopez – 3rd 2015 Lavaredo Ultra Trail, 5th 2016 Vibram 100, 17th 2016 Transgrancanaria.
  • Kazufumi Ose – 12th 2016 80k du Mont Blanc, 8th 2016 North Face 100 Hong Kong
  • Robbie Britton – 7th 2015 Tarawera 100k, 11th 2016 Courmayeur – Champex – Chamonix (CCC)
  • Dani Garcia – 1st 2017 Villaflor de Chasna 43k
  • Casey Morgan – 10th 2014 Transgrancanaria, 2nd 2016 Ecotrail Funchai – Madeira Island 80k, 1st 2017 The 9 Dragons – 50/50
  • Manuel Merillas – 3rd 2014 The Rut 50k, 7th Transvulcania 2014, 2nd 2015 Ice Trail Tarentaise, 4th 2016 Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon


David’s Picks for the Podium:

Female – 1st Francesca Canepa, 2nd Gemma Arenas, 3rd Azara Garcia

Men – 1st Didrik Hermansen, 2nd Sondre Amdahl, 3rd Timothy Olson

Images – Juan Vicent

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David Longo
David is a Canberra-based ultra runner who has also lived in Hong Kong. He races regularly both on the HK and Australian ultra scene.

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